The Story of Mata Vaishno Devi Temple•
Posted on October 07 2021
The Vaishno Devi temple is a cave temple nestled in the midst of the Trikuta Hills in Katra district in Jammu and Kashmir. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Vaishno Devi or Vaishnavi who is considered to be a manifestation of Goddess Durga or Maa Parvati. The cave is believed to have been first discovered by a Hindu priest named Pandit Sridhar. It is said that the goddess appeared before the priest in a dream and guided him on how to locate her abode. Hindus consider this shrine to be the most important Shaktipeeth as the skull of Goddess Sati is said to have fallen here.
The shrine houses a five and a half feet rock with three Pindis or heads. Each Pindi epitomises the goddess in different forms with a different attribute. The three forms are Maha Kali, Maha Saraswati and Maha Lakshmi. Interestingly, there are no idols or statues representing these goddesses. The temple attracts a multitude of visitors every year from both within and outside the country. Devi’s followers offer her flowers, fruits, red coloured sarees and even ornaments.
Reaching the Temple
The approach to the temple is not as easy as most other Devi temples. The shrine is located at an elevation of 5,200 feet. Devotees often trek barefoot for nearly 12km from Katra. Some worshippers even crawl all the way up to the shrine to seek the blessings of their deity. The temple offers various modes of transportation for the elderly and those who find trekking difficult. These modes include pony rides, electric vehicles and palanquins. Helicopters also ply to Sanjichaat, around 10km from the temple.
Legend of Vaishno Devi
Goddess Vaishno Devi was born as Vaishnavi to a person called Ratnakar and his wife in South India. As she grew older, she started analysing her inner self and gave up her luxurious life. She left for the forest and entered into deep meditation. She met Lord Rama who was in exile during this period and instantly recognised who he was. Vaishnavi asked the lord to merge her into himself so that she could be one with him. However, the god told him that it was not yet time for the union.
Goraksh Nath, a Mahayogi dreamt of the conversation between Vaishnavi and Rama. This made him curious to know more about Vaishnavi and he sent his disciple Bhairon Nath to find out more about her. When he met her, he was enchanted by her beauty and began to follow her wherever she went. Vaishnavi entered a cave to escape from his clutches and stayed there for nine months.
Bhairon Nath did not give up his search and eventually found her. He then tried forcing himself on Vaishnavi. This enraged her and she instantly transformed herself into a goddess. The goddess had eight arms and beheaded Bhairon Nath. However, she granted him moksha. After killing him, the goddess decided to renounce her human form and transformed herself into a rock and returned to the cave to resume her meditation. This cave is now the famous Vaishno Devi shrine and the rock with the pindies is the deity.
Navaratri celebrations take place with pomp and gaiety in the Vaishno Devi temple. During the first three days of the nine-day festival. The goddess is worshipped as Goddess Durga, a spiritual force that helps devotees get rid of their vices and impurities. She is manifested as Goddess Lakshmi, the bestower of wealth from the fourth day to sixth day. On the last three days, she takes the form of Goddess Saraswati, the giver of knowledge and wisdom. Hindus are of the belief that visiting the shrine and worshipping the deity during the nine-day period is very auspicious and brings them closer to reaching heaven. A maha yagna is performed during the Navaratri period for the health, prosperity and peace of mankind. The yagna comes to an end on the ninth day or Mahanavami with the culmination of Purna Ahuti.
Diwali is another festival that is celebrated with full enthusiasm in the temple.
Aarti in the Temple
The aarti performed in the temple is an elaborate ritual and is performed twice a day. The whole ritual takes about two hours to get done and there is no darshan during this period.
The priest performs an aatman pujan or self-purification ritual before doing the aarti. Amidst the chanting of several mantras and slokas, the goddess is bathed in water, ghee, milk, honey and sugar. The rock deity is then dried and dressed with the finest clothing and jewellery. Following this, the pujari applies a tilak on her forehead and offers the prasad. After this, a puja is done in honour of all the gods and goddesses as it is believed that they are also inside the sanctum sanctorum along with the main deity.
Finally, the divine lamp is lit and the aarti is carried out. The aarti is carried out inside the cave before the deity and outside the cave. Once the aarti is over, the pujari distributes the prasad and the holy water or charanamrit to the worshippers present there.
Goddess Vaishno Devi blesses her devotees with whatever they want. She grants strength to the weak, wealth to the deserving, helps physically challenged people overcome their disabilities and blesses childless couples with a progeny.
Written by Deepthi K